Political correctness and the nanny state dominate our culture. We see this displayed everyday on the editorial pages of America's newspapers. The latest editorial supporting more government intervention to protect "public health" is found in surprise, surprise, The Record (Hackensack, NJ), "Smoke and Fries: ‘Nanny state' is good for your health."
The Record editorial applauds the decision of San Francisco to prohibit restaurants from offering toys with meals that exceed a certain level of calories and fat. In addition, the proposed regs will require fruits and vegetables to be included in any meal that offers a toy. At the federal level, regulators may require images of diseased organs or a corpse on packs of cigarettes.
The editorial nevertheless states a truth: "We understand that many Americans may be skeptical of the so-called ‘nanny state,' the vision of government that includes corporate regulation. The nation was founded on a strong tradition of individual liberty, freedom of choice and business innovation." However, the editorial then follows its unvarnished acknowledgment of America's libertarian heritage with this nonsense: "But as our history grows longer and more complex, we can also look to successful public health campaigns as American traditions worthy of celebration. For example, the lifesaving, largely compulsory polio vaccines were invented and first distributed in the U.S.A."According to The Record, liberty and freedom of choice must take a back seat to "complexity" and "coercion." In short, the ends justify the means. The Record thus supports the idea that a "greater good" takes precedence over individual liberty, human dignity and free will. This is the mindset of totalitarians and authoritarians throughout history.
Parents are responsible for their children, not the state. If a parent or parents abuse their children, intervention is justified to remove the child or children to a safe environment. However, in our politically correct, nanny state society, government regulation has replaced parental judgment in raising children. In our culture, the state has taken over more of the responsibilities of parenting than the founders could ever have envisioned — from compulsory education to compulsory vaccination. Where does this stop? The creation of on big American "kibbutz"?
If the Record were consistent in supporting the Nanny State, it would call for the government to issue licenses to women and teenagers before they can become mothers. After all, there is nothing more detrimental to "society" than teenagers and older women having babies out-of-wedlock or who are too poor to care for them, even with a husband. Taxpayers all pay a heavy price for teenagers, women, and couples who are financially and psychologically unprepared to be parents.
As the great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises observed: "Once the principle is admitted that it is duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments." And, "freedom is indivisible. As soon as one starts to restrict it, one enters upon a decline on which it is difficult to stop."
In short, we should be careful what we wish for. There is always an excuse to restrict freedom and individual choice in the name of the greater good. The Record's editorial is the latest example of how illogical thinking has replaced support for our founding principles — liberty and limited government.
Murray Sabrin is professor of finance at Ramapo College. He was the Libertarian Party nominee for governor in 1997 and a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2000 and 2008. Check www.MurraySabrin.com for more of his writings.